KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV has snubbed Conor McGregor in his list of lightweight standouts.
Nurmagomedov, 32, left the division and the belt behind last October after announcing his retirement from mixed martial arts.
The undefeated Russian left behind a murderers' row of contenders to vie for the strap, which was claimed by Charles Oliveira in May.
The Eagle still pays close attention to his old division and likes the look of the surging contenders making their way up the ranks, with the exception of his old rival McGregor.
He told UFC Russia: "There are many fighters at the top of the rankings who haven't won anything for a long time now.
"If Islam [Makhachev] wins in July he will have eight wins in a row and he will keep moving forward.
"[There is] such a nice composition to the division; not only [the Russians] but also the Brazilians. For instance, take a look at Oliveira or Rafael Dos Anjos.
"The Americans are also well-represented in the division; Poirier, [Justin] Gaethje and [Michael] Chandler.
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"So it is going to be fun; like the World War… the Russians, the Americans and the Brazilians.
'This division has always been interesting and difficult… so it will be fun by the end of this year."
Nurmagomedov's retirement from MMA was brought on by the death of his father and head coach Abdulmanap.
The Dagestani destroyer is enjoying life after fighting, in particular his newfound freedom.
He said: "I think living the life of an athlete is somewhat close to being held in a prison.
"Because everyday he has to do exactly the same thing — train, rest, then train again, then rest.
"It's like living in the same mode, at the same pace, not slowing down.
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"Once you slow down, you are no longer a champion. So I have just released myself from this prison in a way.
"There are many things that I miss. Simply because I spent my entire life doing them.
"No, there was not a single moment when I had regrets or doubts about my decision.
"However, I miss this competition environment itself, training camps, losing weight, etc.'
"The sport is one thing and it's been very good to me, boxing.
"And I've had a lot of low times and it's made me very well as well at times.
"But the highs are great, the lows are terrible."
McGregor, 32, will be back in action a week on Sunday, taking on ex-interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier in a trilogy fight in the main event of UFC 264 in Las Vegas.
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